Coal Downturn

One of the first things I learned about Gillette even before I moved here is that Gillette is a coal town. pretty much everything revolves around the coal economy, and if you've been following along, things aren't going so well in that department. At least three coal companies have filed for bankruptcy so far, and in early April more than 450 people were laid off at two of the nations largest mines, both here in Campbell County. We've covered this downturn from a few angles, focusing on the impact to surrounding businesses, as well as the impact on individuals directly affected by layoffs etc.

Here are a handful of photos I've made while working on telling this story.
 

Early Signs

 Spencer Garcia looks for work through an online job search website while his newborn daughter Devyn sleeps beside him in their apartment in Gillette on March 1, 2016. Garcia was laid off from a temp job as a haul truck driver at North Rochelle Antelope Mine, his last day of work came about a month after signing a 12-month lease for the apartment and just days after the birth of his daughter. "It hit me hard when I first got the news," said Spencer, "(Kayla) was pregnant, I had just signed the lease. I was pretty sour about it"

Spencer Garcia looks for work through an online job search website while his newborn daughter Devyn sleeps beside him in their apartment in Gillette on March 1, 2016. Garcia was laid off from a temp job as a haul truck driver at North Rochelle Antelope Mine, his last day of work came about a month after signing a 12-month lease for the apartment and just days after the birth of his daughter. "It hit me hard when I first got the news," said Spencer, "(Kayla) was pregnant, I had just signed the lease. I was pretty sour about it"

 Owner Kristene Partlow fills out paperwork for a storage unit rental for Alferdo Olveda at KP Management on March 25, 2016. According to Partlow, Olveda wasn't able to get a U-Haul truck and instead had to rent a storage unit to store his stuff while he moves to Colorado. Olveda, a drywall contractor, said his work has been steady but for "a lot of people I know, it's pretty slow" he said. Partlow is renting out more storage units and U-Hauls than usual as more and more people leave the region to find new work.

Owner Kristene Partlow fills out paperwork for a storage unit rental for Alferdo Olveda at KP Management on March 25, 2016. According to Partlow, Olveda wasn't able to get a U-Haul truck and instead had to rent a storage unit to store his stuff while he moves to Colorado. Olveda, a drywall contractor, said his work has been steady but for "a lot of people I know, it's pretty slow" he said. Partlow is renting out more storage units and U-Hauls than usual as more and more people leave the region to find new work.

 Heidi Buen gets out of a U-Haul truck after getting it ready for a customer Friday March 25, 2016 on the lot at KP Management where she works. The lot is mostly empty these days as the trucks are hard to come by everywhere from Billings to Rapid City. "The whole region is wiped out," said KP Management owner Kristene Partlow, "There's way more demand than supply."

Heidi Buen gets out of a U-Haul truck after getting it ready for a customer Friday March 25, 2016 on the lot at KP Management where she works. The lot is mostly empty these days as the trucks are hard to come by everywhere from Billings to Rapid City. "The whole region is wiped out," said KP Management owner Kristene Partlow, "There's way more demand than supply."

465 Miners Laid Off

 A note on the door of Wyoming Department of Workforce Services alerts clients to the office's extended hours on Friday April 1, 2016. After more than 450 local mine workers were laid off, state and local agencies worked extra to get them help, including setting up a temporary resource center at Gillette College.

A note on the door of Wyoming Department of Workforce Services alerts clients to the office's extended hours on Friday April 1, 2016. After more than 450 local mine workers were laid off, state and local agencies worked extra to get them help, including setting up a temporary resource center at Gillette College.

 Matt Johnson waits at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services offices in Gillette on Thursday March 31, 2016. Johnson was working for Big Horn Tire servicing the vehicles at Black Thunder Mine when he went into surgery to have a brain tumor removed. He expected to return to work within about two weeks when he got the call telling him he had been laid off. "They let me go and I just got done with a brain surgery, so..." he said, "I'm kinda without a paddle."

Matt Johnson waits at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services offices in Gillette on Thursday March 31, 2016. Johnson was working for Big Horn Tire servicing the vehicles at Black Thunder Mine when he went into surgery to have a brain tumor removed. He expected to return to work within about two weeks when he got the call telling him he had been laid off. "They let me go and I just got done with a brain surgery, so..." he said, "I'm kinda without a paddle."

 Polly Bernard fills out a resume at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services on Friday April 1, 2016 after getting laid off from Black Thunder Mine Thursday morning."It's not good, I know there are a lot of people who are going to leave," she said. But moving isn't something Bernard is interested in, with her daughter and two grandkids living in Gillette, "If it wasn't for them I would be outta here," she said.

Polly Bernard fills out a resume at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services on Friday April 1, 2016 after getting laid off from Black Thunder Mine Thursday morning."It's not good, I know there are a lot of people who are going to leave," she said. But moving isn't something Bernard is interested in, with her daughter and two grandkids living in Gillette, "If it wasn't for them I would be outta here," she said.

 Kuillin Orcutt waits for a friend in the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services office Friday April 1, 2016 after getting started looking for work. Orcutt, who comes from a family of mine workers, was laid off Thursday from the North Antelope Rochelle mine along with more than 230 of his coworkers.

Kuillin Orcutt waits for a friend in the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services office Friday April 1, 2016 after getting started looking for work. Orcutt, who comes from a family of mine workers, was laid off Thursday from the North Antelope Rochelle mine along with more than 230 of his coworkers.

 Shauna, 4-year-old Jacob and Kuillin Orcutt pray before eating lunch on Saturday April 2, 2016 at their apartment in Gillette. Kuillin, who led the family in prayer, asked for help through this tough time as he begins looking for new work after being laid off from the North Antelope Rochelle mine on Thursday.

Shauna, 4-year-old Jacob and Kuillin Orcutt pray before eating lunch on Saturday April 2, 2016 at their apartment in Gillette. Kuillin, who led the family in prayer, asked for help through this tough time as he begins looking for new work after being laid off from the North Antelope Rochelle mine on Thursday.

Community Support

 Patty Norstegaard takes a box of food from Levi Morgan during a food drive benefiting the Council of Community Services Saturday April 2, 2016 at Smith's grocery store. Nadine Decker decided to organize the drive after reading about all the layoffs in the community and contacted Smith's, who not only gave the okay but also pledged to donate almost $1,000 worth of food.

Patty Norstegaard takes a box of food from Levi Morgan during a food drive benefiting the Council of Community Services Saturday April 2, 2016 at Smith's grocery store. Nadine Decker decided to organize the drive after reading about all the layoffs in the community and contacted Smith's, who not only gave the okay but also pledged to donate almost $1,000 worth of food.

 Supportive messages are written in chalk outside the Heritage Center before the Friends of Coal town hall meeting on Thursday April 14, 2016. Members of Friends of Coal, as well as miners and other coal industry representatives came to Gillette to speak about how to strengthen the perceptions around coal.

Supportive messages are written in chalk outside the Heritage Center before the Friends of Coal town hall meeting on Thursday April 14, 2016. Members of Friends of Coal, as well as miners and other coal industry representatives came to Gillette to speak about how to strengthen the perceptions around coal.

 Former coal miner Jack Laasko tears up as he talks about what coal has done for him and his family, including helping pay for his children's education through taxes funding the public schools across the state, Thursday April 14, 2016 during the Friends of Coal town hall meeting at the Heritage Center Theater.

Former coal miner Jack Laasko tears up as he talks about what coal has done for him and his family, including helping pay for his children's education through taxes funding the public schools across the state, Thursday April 14, 2016 during the Friends of Coal town hall meeting at the Heritage Center Theater.